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The Eastern Cape

This easy gravel poort is located roughly midway between Steytlerville and Willowmore. It is the first pass or poort on this pleasant gravel road (the P1861) which is followed by a number of poorts of various lengths. The gradients are very easy through this poort, which average out at 1:178 which is about as close to flat as you can get. The road carries minimal traffic (mainly local farmers) and you will immediately experience a sense of solitude. Watch out for animals on the road - both domestic and wild animals.

The road is in reasonable condition, but like all gravel roads, it is subject to corrugations, washaways, loose gravel and flash floods. We recommend tyre deflation to 1.4 bar for improved traction, a softer ride and a reduction in the chance of getting a puncture.

Satansnek is a big pass by any standards, as it is almost 17 km long and has an altitude variance of over 500 metres. It traverses the spine of a mountain to connect the Eastern Cape Highlands with the lower valleys near Engcobo. Its most outstanding feature is the Xuka River Canyon, an astonishing gorge which cuts through the mountains and which is visible on the eastern side.

The road is tarred but is badly maintained, so there are numerous potholes. Other hazards include local traffic and livestock. The pass is sometimes closed in winter because of heavy snowfalls, and under these conditions it should be avoided altogether, or only tackled with extreme caution using a 4x4. It is not as well-known as some of the other famous passes in the area, but is worth taking a little bit of extra effort to get to, and should be on any serious pass-chaser’s bucket list.

This very minor nek is located on the P2563 gravel road between Doornvlei in the north and Cradock in the south. The 'pass' is just 1,7 km long and has an altitude variance of 47m, which converts into an average gradient of 1:36, with no part being steeper than 1:25. There are no sharp corners or other obvious dangers, other than the chance of finding livestock on the road. This is one of those official passes that completely mystifies logic and does not fall within the parameters of a mountain pass, yet it is well marked on all official government maps, so it must have some historical significance - none of which we were able to track down. If you don't mark it on your GPS as a waypoint, you probably won't even realise you have just driven over a pass.

This fairly easy gravel pass is well off the beaten track about midway between Kleinpoort in the east and Steytlerville in the west and bears the oddly out of character name of Seekoeinek (Hippopotamus Neck). This is in a very dry part of the Karoo and it's hard to believe that there were ever hippos in this part of South Africa. The pass is located on a secondary farm link road, the P1852, and can be used as an alternative route to get to Steytlerville via the tarred R329. The road is signposted as Haaspoort (Rabbit or Hare Ravine), which is a much more likely animal to find in these parts.

The road condition is reasonable and can be driven in any vehicle. As is the case with all gravel roads, beware of corrugations and washaways and we recommend you lower tyre pressures to 1,4 bar to improve traction and to provide a softer ride, as well as reduce the risk of punctures.

The Skaapkraalpoort is a fairly minor gravel pass located just north of Tarkastad on the R344 route and connects Tarkakastad in the south with Sterkstroom 65 km further north. The pass only has 7 bends, corners and curves, two of which are sharp and in excess of 70 degrees.  With a fairly low altitude variance of 49 m and a total length of 4,5 km this little pass presents and average gradient of a very gentle 1:92

The Slagtersnek (or Butcher's Neck) is an easy gravel road that descends very gently from a natural neck between the two prominant mountains north-east of Cookhouse in the Eastern Cape. The road first crosses the Great Fish River near the start, then approximates the river's course along it's western bank at a higher contour, in a south westerly direction, where it terminates after 3 km at the crossing of a small stream. The pass is insignificant in terms of statistics, but it has a major historical connection - the Slagtersnek Rebellion, which was the major instigator of the Great Trek.

This is an obscure gravel surfaced pass on a farm road, approximately 27 km due West of Dordrecht, in the Eastern Cape. The road starts at 1846m ASL and rises 70 vertical meters over 3,45 km to summit at 1916m. Expect snow here in winter and like the nearby Penhoek Pass, this region being part of the Stormberg can produce serious weather at any time of the year.

This easy tarred pass is located on the tarred R75 route about midway between Kirkwood in the east and Jansenville in the west. It's of average length at 4,7 km and displays an altitude variance of 135m and an average gradient of 1:35 with the steepest section being near the summit at 1:9.

Strangely there are two Soutpansnek Passes on the R75 just 43 km apart. This was always going to cause confusion, so we have labelled the two passes with a suffix to separate them distinctly. This one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Wolwefontein) and the more northern one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Ravelskloof).

Soutpansnek translates from Afrikaans as 'Salt Pan Neck'. This 7 km tarred pass is located on the R75, about 15 km north of the small Karoo town of Jansenville. The pass has a stiff gradient on its northern side of 1:14, but other than the one sharp bend at the summit, which is well marked, should present no real dangers. The road is suitable for all vehicles. There are several references to this pass also being called the Ravelskloof Pass. This stems from a sign at either end of the pass marked 'RAVELSKLOOF' which is the name of the kloof over which the Soutpansnek Pass traverses. In reality, there is no such pass as the Ravelskloof Pass.

Strangely there are two Soutpansnek Passes on the R75 just 43 km apart. This was always going to cause confusion, so we have labelled the two passes with a suffix to separate them distinctly. This one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Ravelskloof) and the more southern one is the Soutpansnek Pass (Wolwefontein).

 

This was the first of the series of classic Garden Route/Tsitsikamma passes to be built by Thomas Bain in the late 1800's. The pass bears all of Bain's hallmark features, with sweeping curves and high retaining walls, whilst still retaining a reasonable gradient for wagon traffic - in this case 1:15.

Today the pass falls wholly under the jurisdiction of the National Parks Board and no vehicles are allowed to drive the pass. The good news is that you can walk it or cycle it.

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Mountain Passes South Africa

Mountain Passes South Africa is a website dedicated to the research, documentation, photographing and filming of the mountain passes of South Africa.
 

Passes are classified according to provinces and feature a text description, Fact File including GPS data, a fully interactive dual-view map and a narrated YouTube video.
 

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